The National Association of REALTORS®’ recent Housing Affordability Study inspired the San Antonio Board to commission one of its own on a local level, with help from an Issues Mobilization Grant from the REALTOR® Party. It used the resulting analysis of area Homestead Tax Exemption policies to convince city and county legislators to maximize tax relief for over-burdened homeowners.
In the City of San Antonio and surrounding Bexar County, home values have risen dramatically – close to 20% on average in the past two years – and property taxes have escalated accordingly. Meanwhile, the ratio of homeownership-to-renting in the region has shifted toward the latter, a trend that points to the effect of high property taxes on housing affordability.
In order to help provide meaningful property tax relief and keep homeownership sustainable, the San Antonio Board of REALTORS® (SABOR) focused their efforts urging both the City and County to increase their local homestead tax exemptions, which removes a percentage or a fixed dollar amount of a property’s value from taxation.
Using an Issues Mobilization Grant from the REALTOR® Party, SABOR commissioned a Homestead Property Tax Exemption Study that provided elected officials with the data and recommendations they needed to enact meaningful homestead tax exemptions at the local level. In June, just days apart, the San Antonio City Council approved a 10% homestead tax exemption after previously offering only .01% (the state’s lowest;) while Bexar County adopted a 20% homestead tax exemption (the maximum allowed by state) after previously offering residents no exemption of any kind.
On the day of the vote for the new tax exemption, Tracie Hasslocher, SABOR’s 2022 Chairman, spoke in front of the San Antonio City Council on behalf of the organization and its more than 15,000 members. “These policies are helping keep our San Antonio homeowners from being taxed out of their homes,” she said. “Over time, these tax savings will provide thousands of dollars in additional relief to the average homeowner, resources that will help offset a rising housing cost burden in the San Antonio community.”
In fact, according to SABOR Government Affairs Director Brett Finley, San Antonio homeowners under 65 will see an estimated $3,800 in new tax savings over the next ten years on the average homestead valued at $300,000, for an average of $380 per year. SABOR’s advocacy efforts with the homestead study were also instrumental in generating public support for tax relief for the elderly and disabled. “Using compelling results from the Homestead Tax Study, we approached our REALTOR® Party Champions at the local level and offered our support and partnership,” Finley explains. “We had access to all these resources at NAR, and its recent Housing Affordability Study had been on our radar, so in our initial conversations, we asked, if we got you these materials, could we get this across the finish line?” Given the growing housing-affordability crisis, he adds, there was a shared sense of responsibility to look at property taxes as a factor driving people away from home ownership in the area. “We are confident that the results of the tax study will continue to be utilized by policymakers in the years to come to justify additional tax relief to our residents.”
Having identified and addressed a problem that was so fundamental in San Antonio, SABOR hopes its efforts will become a case study on how to affect policy at the local level for other jurisdictions across the state. Mindful that both the city and county authorities will still need the revenue that they’ve relinquished, the board will continue working with officials to seek other sources.
Of SABOR’s experience with the Issues Mobilization program, Finley declares, “There is no way we could have accomplished this for our community without the funding analysis that NAR provided. There is so much untapped potential in the REALTOR® Party resources, and while the “intimidation effect” is understandable when asking for what seems like a lot of money, the staff that manages the grant programs is friendly, responsive and dedicated to helping you succeed.”
For more information on how the San Antonio Board of REALTORS® is working to keep property taxes manageable for the region’s homeowners, contact Government Affairs Director Brett Finley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 830.708.3268.